What is ISO?

ISO and online inductions

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Standards exist for a reason or more of them. They make sure businesses and organisations meet certain requirements to provide optimal service or products to clients and customers. At the same time, they regulate the industry to ensure fair trade, manufacturing, sale, and what not. Standardisation is an important subject today and chances are high you’ve already heard of ISO, but in this post, we’re going to elaborate on their role.

What is ISO?

International Organisation for Standardisation is an international nongovernmental standard-setting body comprised of national standards agencies. The organisation develops and publishes various standards for industrial, commercial, and public use. Some standards apply to physical industries such as manufacturing, but others relate to digital technology and IT field. 

The idea for founding the organisation came in 1946 when delegates from 25 countries gathered at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London. They decided to establish an organisation with a goal to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards. It wasn’t just wishful thinking, and they turned their idea into reality. ISO officially started working on February 23, 1947, and today it gathers 162 countries as well as 786 committees and subcommittees. The organisation’s headquarters are in Geneva where 135 people work to run the massive agency.

Why ISO, but not IOS?

Name ISO is a source of confusion for some people as they expect International Organisation for Standardisation would go by IOS acronym. You see, ISO is a term that was chosen on purpose. Full name of the organisation is different in many countries so acronym would be different as well. They wanted to avoid that hassle by choosing one term that would be used everywhere. ISO is not an acronym but derives from the Greek word isos which translates to equal.

Membership types

While headquartered in Geneva, ISO has its offices in all member countries, i.e. 162 of them. Members of ISO are the most reputable standard organisations in their countries, but it’s important to mention there can only be one member per country. People and businesses can’t be members of ISO. Membership is divided into three main types or categories:

  • Full members (member bodies) – influence the development of standards and strategies through voting in technical and policy meetings

  • Correspondent members – observe the development of standards and strategies by attending ISO meetings as observers

  • Subscriber members – can only keep up with ISO’s work, but cannot participate in it

Benefits of ISO standards

Throughout its, history ISO has published 22,378 standards on an international level as well as other related documents in different industries. The greatest benefit of ISO standards is that they enable consumers across the world to use products and services that are safe, high-quality, reliable, and effective.

Hard work of this organisation makes the world a safer place, but there’s still a lot that needs to be done to take standardisation to a whole new level. Even governments and regulators rely on ISO and their work to regulate the manufacturing, IT market, and other industries.

How does ISO work?

What most people want to know is how ISO works, i.e. how they come up with all those standards. The process isn’t easy, and it doesn’t involve one person only. Instead, multiple people are involved. They work together to create standards that can benefit everyone, particularly consumers. Members can nominate independent technical experts who use their knowledge and expertise to give suggestions, propose ideas, and provide in-depth insight into the subject. Experts start by developing a draft that meets the needs of a specific market.

The draft is shared among ISO members who read it thoroughly, comment and give their suggestions. The discussion is followed by a voting process. The consensus is needed to make the standard official. Without the agreement of all the people at the meeting, there is no standard. This leads us back to the name of the organisation, ISO, and its meaning – equality. Opinions of everyone involved matter. This isn’t a fast process, and it can take up to three years from idea to turn into a proposal and then to be voted into a standard.


ISO is a body that creates standards in a number of industries to make sure consumers use reliable and high-quality products and services. The goal is to create an honest market where everyone involved meets specific criteria to make the world a safer place.